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April 4, 2014

Graffiti hits Prater’s Mill, nearby bridge

Ronald Tavares was appalled when he discovered someone had painted graffiti in several locations at Prater’s Mill, the landmark near Varnell that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tavares, who volunteers at the site helping tell its history, said he hopes authorities can get to the bottom of who left the well house, parts of a wooden handrail and a large area under the bridge on Ga. Highway 2 covered with the word “hack,” what appears to be a name, the phrase “paint the world” and other markings.

“I was so mad I was champing at the bits,” Tavares said of when he saw what had happened. “My biggest fright is what will be next, the store, the mill or the gin? The gin’s never been painted, and that worries me because that’s original old wood. If they spray on that, you have to sand it or paint it.”

Prater’s Mill is an 1855 water-powered grist mill that still operates periodically. A crafts, music and food fair is held there every year in October.

On Monday, a Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office deputy took a report at Tavares’ request, records show. Lt. Nancy Chadwick said on Friday the investigation is ongoing and authorities don’t have any suspects.

“We’re just doing extra patrols,” she said. “We’ve contacted Varnell police, and they’re doing extra patrols.”

Judy Alderman of the Prater’s Mill Foundation didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment. Those with information about the incident may call the sheriff’s office at (706) 278-1233.

The graffiti job came right before a previously planned cleanup day today at historic sites around the country, including Prater’s Mill and the Confederate cemetery in the West Hill Cemetery in Dalton. The Park Day cleanup at Prater’s Mill is scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to noon. Volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks, including removing invasive plants, sweeping, dusting and performing other tasks.

Benefactors Marcus and Susan Boring will provide refreshments and lunch free to participants. Local historian Bob Jenkins is scheduled to speak about Civil War actions at 11:30 a.m.

At the Confederate cemetery, volunteers are needed beginning at 9 a.m. to rake leaves, prune trees and clean the memorial wall. Water, soda and sports drinks will be provided.


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